Occupied region of Ukraine evacuates residents to Russia

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Genia Savilov

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19.10.22 07:26

MOSCOW and KYIV — Russian-backed authorities began an evacuation of civilians from Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region on Wednesday — a sign that Moscow’s hold on the territory looks increasingly threatened amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive growing.

In a video address, Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin-based administrator, called on residents of districts surrounding the regional capital of Kherson to evacuate across the Dnipro River – a key line of defense – as Ukrainian forces continue to gain strength. land in southern Ukraine.

Saldo offered residents the option of moving to towns “in any part of Russia”, and said the Russian government would provide housing vouchers for those wishing to get away from the fighting.

“Let the Russian army do its job,” he said.

Others in his administration were less measured.

Kirill Stremousov, Saldo’s appointed deputy in Moscow, urged residents to evacuate “as soon as possible”, saying the battle for Kherson “will begin soon”.

“We will not abandon the city and we will fight to the end,” he said, adding that residents whose homes may be damaged by the shelling could receive compensation from the Russian government.

Earlier in October, Ukrainian forces in the Kherson region pushed back the Russian line by 20 miles, according to the president’s office and Deep State, an independent monitoring group.

“The Russians feel trapped between our forces and the banks of the Dnipro, so they are looking for ways to punish local communities,” Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Command, told state television. Ukrainian commanders have set themselves the goal of liberating Kherson by winter.

Russia’s commander-in-chief in Ukraine has hinted that his forces may have to withdraw amid Ukrainian advances.

In his first interview since his appointment as head of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine on October 8, General Sergei Surovikin described the situation in Kherson as “very difficult” and refused to rule out “the most difficult decisions”.

Surovikin – who has overseen the massive bombardment of Ukrainian cities since taking power – accused Kyiv of targeting civilians and said Russia was now focused on saving lives.

“We will operate with the aim of maximizing the safety of the civilian population and our soldiers. This is our priority,” Surovikin told Zvezda Channel, a state media outlet funded by the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, DC-based think tank, has suggested that similar projects are a “pretext to deport Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory as they populate occupied areas with Russian citizens.” .

It was unclear how many residents were heeding Russian warnings to evacuate.

According to Russian state media, residents of Kherson received text messages with instructions to take evacuation buses out of town.

Pro-Kremlin media also showed people with bags lined up to catch ferries on the Dnipro.

Separately, Russian-backed authorities have announced that they are shutting down travel to Kherson for next week.

Kherson is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia has claimed to have officially annexed following a series of referendums held in September.

Referendums and annexation attempts have been widely denounced by the international community.

Despite claiming the lands as part of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s forces never succeeded in establishing full control over the territories.

Copyright 2022 NPR. For more, visit NPR.

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